The Rocket Flame

Filed under Features, On Campus

From Student to Teacher

Mrs. Breanna Grove’s Transition from College Life to Teaching High Schoolers

Mrs. Breanna Grove

Mrs. Breanna Grove

Mrs. Breanna Grove

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Changes can be difficult, whether it’s a new house, or even a new job. One teacher in the district has endured a lot of changes in the past year, but has used them to her advantage.


Mrs. Breanna Grove (Faculty) graduated from Lock Haven University not even a year ago. She is the current gym teacher here at James Buchanan High School, but, even in college, many changes had occurred in her life.


“I originally went to Shippensburg for middle-level education, teaching math and science, but then I knew Lock Haven had physical education,” Grove said. “I never really thought of that as a career, until I heard of it and thought about it. So that’s whenever I went up to Lock Haven and pursued health and PE.”


After moving to Lock Haven, she declared a new major and began classes.


“[I took] your typical gen eds for the first year, and after that we had a lot of physical education classes.” Grove explained, “Which were specifically games, like tactical games: ultimate football, ultimate frisbee, and soccer, and then we also had net sports as another class, which is tennis, volleyball, pickleball, badminton.”


She not only has a degree in physical education, but is certified to teach Health.


“I also had a lot of health-related classes with my Health degree, so I’m technically certified to teach Health and Physical Education. I took Anatomy, Physiology, [and] Kinesiology,” Grove added.


After graduation, Grove began to look for a job. The first job opening she found was here at James Buchanan.


“They [the Heckmans] told me about Beegle retiring, so even before the position was posted, I applied for it. This was the very first position I applied for,” she said. “After that, I applied for like 10 other positions, and I ended up getting the job of my very first application.”


There was some slight competition, but in the end, Grove was hired.


“They actually interviewed my husband for the same position. We were interviewed on the same day, but then I got a call back,” Grove said.


She dealt with all the other logistics of getting hired, and was ready to start her new job, which consisted of the typical first day jitters.


“Nervous, very, very, nervous,” were the words Grove used to describe her feelings.


One of her major concerns was being accepted, but also respected.


“Being a young person, you want everyone to like you, but you also need to be professional, and be assertive when necessary, or you’re just going to get pushed over,” Grove described. “That’s definitely been a fun learning experience.”


Though she has been teaching for less than a semester, she already has goals for the future.


“My hope is to never be the same. I think whenever you repeat things every year, people get bored with it, first of all,” she reported. “Secondly, society changes, so I believe what you teach in the classroom should change too.”


Grove not only wants to make her class interesting, she also wants to create a bond with her students.


“I think being a teacher [that] it’s important to build relationships with your students and have them be comfortable enough to come and talk to you,” she said. ”If you can’t build that respect and persona with your students, then you’re really not going to be able to reach them like you could if you were able to talk to them one-on-one.”


She believes that changes are key to a successful class in today’s world.


“Just in education specifically, in the past, traditional education was very much, you need to ‘teach, teach, teach,’” Grove informed. “Whereas 21st-century education, which is what they push now, is about building relationships, being able to relate to your students, and just know more about them, and not necessarily just teaching them all the time, but having them teach you.”


The experiences Grove has gone through over the past few years are what shaped her into the person she is today, and shows that change is inevitable.


On Friday, Nov. 17, the James Buchanan Drama Club members switched places in their Miscast Cabaret.

Her dress sparkling under the stage lights, Olivia Harmon (11) performs “Stars” from Les Miserables.

Her dress sparkling under the stage lights, Olivia Harmon (11) performs “Stars” from Les Miserables.

Sydney Jones

Sydney Jones

Her dress sparkling under the stage lights, Olivia Harmon (11) performs “Stars” from Les Miserables.

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Cabaret is a tradition started by Mr. Luke Spurgeon (Staff) and Mrs. Kristin Zimmerman (Faculty), where the Drama Club performs different pieces from musicals and plays.


“The first Cabaret was this time of year, in November 2015. It was the same year as Jekyll and Hyde,” Spurgeon said.


Their theme this year was Miscast, which is where the boys are to sing songs originally performed by girls, and vice versa.


“There’s a whole bunch of awesome songs that are written for girls on Broadway that guys never get to sing and a whole bunch of awesome songs that are written for guys on Broadway that girls never get to sing, so, we’re switching them,” Spurgeon said.


Opening the show was Kierstyn Martin (12) and Sean Martin (12) as the hosts who performed “Anything You Can Dofrom Annie Get Your Gun.


“Cabaret is kind of like old-fashioned karaoke,” explained drama director Mr. Luke Spurgeon, “It’s just a night of informal singing songs that you like.”


With this thought in mind, Cabaret was born, and gave some students the performance of their high school career.  


“Cabaret is a chance to give some students who don’t get a lot of solo time on stage the opportunity to get in front of a crowd and sing a solo, to perform, to get used to being on stage before they have to jump into the musical or a play or something,” Spurgeon commented. “It’s kind of like the training ground for performing.”


Those who participate enjoy the freedom involved with Cabaret.


“You can basically perform whatever song you want and have fun with it,” said Korina Williams (12). “You get to dress up, and it’s all about you.”


There were sixteen students and 2 faculty members that performed on Friday, and about fifty people attended the show. Songs from Les Miserables, Oliver!, Dear Evan Hanson, and many more were showcased. Williams was supposed to sing “Music of the Night” from the classic Phantom of the Opera, but was unable to sing due to sickness.


Though some were under the weather, the show must go on! The performance was brought to a close by Emily Palmerchuck (11) singing “Cabaret” from the musical Cabaret. It helped conclude the show by sticking with its theme of switching things up.  

Filed under On Campus, Showcase

Why Membean?

To start his English class for the day Grant Souder (10) prepares for a 15 minute Membean session.

To start his English class for the day Grant Souder (10) prepares for a 15 minute Membean session.

To start his English class for the day Grant Souder (10) prepares for a 15 minute Membean session.

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You walk into English class and sit down to open your computer getting ready to start off class that day. The teacher walks in and says, “Okay! Ten minutes of Membean to get us started!” This is met with a mix of groans and excitement from the students as they dutifully begin their session.


Membean is a tool used to help build students vocabulary for things like Keystones, SATs, assignments, or just everyday vocabulary skills.  The program is individualized for every student, so students are not learning the same words at the same time like a normal vocabulary list that parents are used to from their school days.


In every English class at James Buchanan, you are required to do between 30-45 minutes of Membean every week. Some of the work is done at home and the rest is done during class time.


Membean has been the vocabulary program of choice for two years, and was originally introduced four years ago by Mrs. Jane Yoder, a former JBHS English teacher.All students have done it sometime in their high school career and this has also been implemented into the middle school vocabulary curriculum, as well.


The three English teachers for 9th and 10th grade basically use Membean the same way in their classroom. They have developed a routine to include something called “Vocab Fridays” to implement Membean into reading.


“I have them do 15 minutes in class Monday and Wednesday and 10 minutes on Fridays,” said Mrs. Peggy Stum (Faculty).


Ms. Kelley Reeder (Faculty) and Ms. Nicole Myers (Faculty), along with Stum, decided to expand upon Membean this year: they made an assignment called the Membean Portfolio which students will begin in ninth grade and continue throughout high school.


“They do some activities with the Portfolio using their Membean words,” said Stum.


The portfolio asks students to interact with their words in various manners and create something new with these words.


“These activities are meant to be fun.  They write songs, odes, make videos with their friends,” said Reeder.  “They really do help the words to stick in your brain and then there is real learning of those terms as they actually are USING them.”


Some of the teachers in the school are able to see a difference in the students vocabulary because they have been working so much with the Membean tool.


“I have definitely seen an impact on my students from Membean,” Stum said.


The English teachers of the school are not the only people who are noticing the difference in the students vocabulary. They are seeing these words in essays and even in classroom conversations where they are discussing vocabulary from a story. It is not uncommon to hear a student explain, “That’s a Membean word!”


“I love learning the new words and congratulating people when I hear them use the words,” Madison Dorsey (11) said.


Dorsey has to do Membean for her AP Language Class, so she does 35 minutes of Membean every week.


“I am a dedicated Membeaner,” said Dorsey


Membean has become a crucial vocabulary tool for the students of James Buchanan. The teachers here are incorporating it into their classrooms in order to enhance vocabulary instruction and helps students love the online tool as much as they do.

Filed under On Campus

Orchestra Welcomes the Christmas season with a “Cello”

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After all of the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes have been eaten, all the pumpkins are carved and the leaves are done falling and changing colors, with all of these signs, we know a new season is quickly approaching: Christmas time! However, this is old news for the James Buchanan High School Orchestra.


Director Mrs. Sheryl Dieke (Faculty), and the Rocket Orchestra have been preparing for the Christmas season since the beginning of this school year. In September, the students received some of the selections of music that could be featured in the Christmas concert.


The orchestra’s Christmas Concert will take place in the high school auditorium on Dec. 16 at 3:00 p.m.


From the time the Orchestra received the music, they have worked and practiced every day during second period to perfect it.


“They just have a lot of basics under control” said Dieke. “They sight read phenomenally and understand key signatures very well.”


All violins, violas, cellos and bass must break the music down measure by measure with their sections to play their parts in the music successfully to be prepared to perform it for the concert. Each instrument plays an essential role in the orchestra because they all bring the piece of music together with their various parts.


“Being that we have put it into a classroom situation where we’re practicing every day, rather than hit and miss during an activity period, the only direction to go is up,!” said Dieke. “And the students prove that every day!”


Megan Hoffeditz (12), the Orchestra’s only viola player, has been playing since the fourth grade. She believes practicing is a crucial. She has also learned what it takes to get through difficult pieces and to succeed as the only viola.


“Just sitting down, playing through it really slow, working out the notes and then speeding it up as time goes on,” helps her explained Hoffeditz.


During second period, the students have been working on a variety of songs including “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Babes in Toyland,” “Ukrainian Fantasy,” “Sleep, Holy Babe,” and “The Christmas Waltz.” Practice is important to the orchestra, because they want to make sure everyone is able to play their part.


Lana Donahue (12) has been playing the violin for 8 and 1/2 years. She is first chair violin in the orchestra. She has learned what tips and tricks it takes for her to overcome difficult parts in the music.


“I play by ear so I mostly search the music online.” said Donahue. “Then I listen to it and I go home and I can just put earphones in and I just play the music by itself.”


There are also students who work on the music during their own time because they didn’t have enough room in their schedule to fit in Orchestra throughout the day. For the concert, both groups come together to play.


With a variety of music pieces comes a variety of difficulty. Pieces are rated for difficulty by grades. The grades range from 1-7, with 1 being the least and 7 the most difficult. The highest grade the Orchestra will be playing is a grade 4 piece called “Wizards in Winter.” The piece is by Paul O’Neill and Robert Kinkel and arranged by Bob Phillips. The song has many sixteenth notes and changes fastly from playing “arco,” or with your bow, to “pizzicato,” or plucking the strings with your fingers.


“Lots of things are happening layer on layer which is really cool,” said Dieke. “The tempo, the sixteenth-note runs, and all the little intricate pieces that are in there.”


“Wizards in Winter” will be the Orchestra’s closing piece. However, the group seems to have some tricks up their sleeves to intensify the closing song: the closing piece will also feature a light show.


The light show will be put together by Claire Alfree (12) and Hannah Mellott (12). Both Alfree and Mellott are in Sound and Lighting, taught by Mr. Eric Poe (Faculty). The girls are working on using their skills that they have learned from the class to make the lights “dance” with the rhythm of the music. They plan to make the song more intriguing to the audience and do something out of the ordinary.


Students know there are some things to still work out before the show. However, they have confidence they will perform nicely at the concert.


Hoffeditz says, “I feel we will do pretty well. We have a lot of solid songs so far.”


Although, the orchestra has shrunken in size over the last couple of years the director has no fear that the orchestra will be nothing but successful for their Christmas performance.


“The kids are great and have worked very hard,” said Dieke. “It will be magnificent! It will be a great concert!”

Filed under On Campus

Warm Music for the Cold Weather

The James Buchanan High School Chorus make preparations for their upcoming Christmas Concert.

The James Buchanan High School Chorus warming up for rehearsal.

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Christmas is one of the busiest seasons of the year, and it does not stop for the James Buchanan Chorus members. A lot is happening for the Chorus this time of year, which kicked off with District Chorus Auditions at the end of October, then to a trip to the American Music Theatre, and lastly the annual Christmas Concert in December.


Mr. Eric Poe (Faculty), requires junior and senior Messa Voce members to audition for District Chorus. Pennsylvania is split up into twelve different districts, and auditions are held for any high school student who would like to try out. Judges then rate each student’s audition, and if the singer’s performance is satisfactory, they will then be inducted into the District Chorus. He also makes it optional for tenth grade members of Messa Voce to audition if they feel prepared.

The Chorus taking a look at their parts in “Ding-a-Dinga-a Ding.”

“Districts is a great learning experience for students,” Poe stated. “Preparing the audition is a lot of hard work. It prepares them for future experiences when learning how to practice in advance.”


Poe gives the required students the music they have to sing in May of the previous school year. They have about five months to prepare their audition. The audition consists of two songs, one that is accompanied, meaning a pianist performs the piece with the singer, and the other song is acapella, where the performer sings with no instruments. They are scored on these two songs out of 450. The singers are scored on five categories, rhythm, intonation, interpretation, technique, and tone with each section worth fifteen points. If you are in the top 25 of auditioners, you make it into District Chorus.


Logan Williams (11) and Patrick Hicks (10) had a very impressive audition: they tied for place 26, only one spot away from making it into the District Chorus. Poe has the ability to send one student to the District Chorus concert as a representative of James Buchanan High School, and he usually chooses the highest scoring member; this year Williams will be representing the school in the District Chorus Concert.

There was not much time to celebrate after the auditions; the Chorus then had to begin preparing for their trip on Nov 15.


Many of the students in chorus went on the trip to the American Music Theater in Lancaster where we sang carols then watched their annual Christmas show,” Chorus member, Korina Williams (12) said.


Prior to the show the Chorus, directed by Poe, performed their carols for the audience.


“We sang Christmas carols in the rotunda as people got their drinks, refreshments, and found their seats,” Jackie Wagaman (11) said.


The chorus is now in full swing into preparing for their upcoming Christmas Concert on Dec, 17 at 3:00 p.m. They have spent a lot of time preparing a wide variety of genres and songs, including Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” “Christmas in de Tropics,” “Winter Song,” “The Twelve Groovy Days of Christmas,” “Ding-a Dinga-a Ding,” “Hallelujah Chorus,” and “We Need A Little Christmas.”


The James Buchanan High School Chorus is rehearsing a piece they will be singing at the Christmas Concert.

There are several featured soloists within these songs as well.  In Vivaldi’s Gloria Chelsea Wareham (11), Korina Williams (12), Lauren Fleming (12) will be performing solos. Kayla Myers (12) and Kierstyn Martin (12) also have a duet. Jackie Wagaman (11), Jacob Troupe (10), and Olivia Harmon (11) have also been given solos in Christmas in de Tropics. Sierra Suffecool (12) and Ella Heckman (10) also were just recently rewarded solos in Winter Song.


Learning and perfecting several different songs can be very demanding for the chorus. Some of the songs even have different languages within: Vivaldi’s “Gloria” is completely in Latin.


The most difficult part of preparing for the concert is Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria,’” Williams said.  “There are twelve movements all in Latin, and the music is intermediate to advanced.”


It is not just the difficulty of a song that the students struggle with, but also musical factors like tone, dialect, rhythm, and their own musicality.  For another Chorus member, Wagaman faces different obstacles in the music.


“I have to say personally for me it’s rhythm,” Wagaman said. “You can have the sweetest voice, you can have the best dictation of your pronunciations, but if you do not feel the music, what’s the point?”


The songs are not just difficult but also very enjoyable for the students to sing.

At rehearsal Luke Spurgeon is accompanying the Chorus while singing “Ding-a Dinga-a Ding.”

“The most enjoyable song is most likely “Ding-a Ding-a Ding” because it is fast paced and very fun,” William’s states.  


Lots of preparations have been being made to perfect the Christmas Concert. From District Chorus auditions strengthening musical techniques, to performing carols, all of this gets the chorus into the Christmas spirit for their upcoming concert.

Filed under On Campus

What You Don’t Know About 3:15 Student Ministries

Standing at the door of 3:15 Student Ministries, Jacquelyn Wagaman (11), Dawson Thomas (11), and Harley Rife (11) welcome attendees and guests.

Standing at the door of 3:15 Student Ministries, Jacquelyn Wagaman (11), Dawson Thomas (11), and Harley Rife (11) welcome attendees and guests.

Standing at the door of 3:15 Student Ministries, Jacquelyn Wagaman (11), Dawson Thomas (11), and Harley Rife (11) welcome attendees and guests.

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Sharing testimonies. Listening to guest speakers. Reading the Bible. Inviting and meeting new people. These are all things that happen every Monday morning during activity period the optional student club, 3:15 Student Ministries.


3:15 Student Ministries is a club managed and run by students. The president, Jaiden Hart (12), has been recently elected and is already on the move for improving the club from last year.


“We are trying to achieve better leadership this year,” Hart said. “We put in a lot of care and our attendance is growing.”


Within a usual Monday morning, the club assigns a member to speak about a topic relating to the Bible or to share their testimony, which is a story about how a person witnessed the Lord. At the end of the meeting, the club opens up into discussion where any member can share what they would like, such as how they encountered God throughout the week.


On special occasions, the club will invite guest speakers to preach for the morning. On October 23, a youth leader from Air Hill Brethren Church came in and spoke. This meeting had a very successful outcome, so the club is planning on bringing in more speakers for the future.

Flipping through pages in the Bible, Harley Rife (11), shows Kali Rotharmel (11) her favorite verse.

3:15 Student Ministries is also starting to prepare for a big fellowship event they are holding in April. The event is called Overflow and the club hopes to have the event run smoother and to have stronger attendance than the year before.


“Overflow is a fellowship event,” Hart said. “We bring in different speakers and different musicians. We’ll sing songs and hear people speak. There’s food and games. It turns out to be a really great time.”  


The overall goal for 3:15 Student Ministries is to grow and to bring more students to God. The club tries to make nobody feel unwelcome by greeting everyone at the door with handshakes and jokes.


“Our goal is to spread love and the amazing works of our Lord,” said the vice president, Harley Rife (11). “We want to bring joy to the students in our school and community.”

Filed under On Campus, Showcase

College Application Survival Guide

While lending a helping hand, Amber Brindle (12) chats with Maddie Hissong (12) to make the process more enjoyable.

While lending a helping hand, Amber Brindle (12) chats with Maddie Hissong (12) to make the process more enjoyable.

While lending a helping hand, Amber Brindle (12) chats with Maddie Hissong (12) to make the process more enjoyable.

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If you have been thinking about how you are going to survive filling out college applications when you become a senior, don’t stress, a few seniors have given advice on how to survive the process and the applications themselves.


Every year, James Buchanan High School has College Application Day in the fall. Seniors who choose to participate can go and fill out their applications with the assistance from several peers and adults.


With many college options around the country, this gives you a chance to make your decision on where you want to apply.

As students inquire about their applications, Ms. Amy Violante (staff), sets out to assist Abby Mackling (12) with her questions.

“You fill out a paper where it’s like your top four colleges you wanna do, and you mainly try and complete those,” said Tanner Miller (12).


Along with you being able to apply to the colleges of your choice, there is also direct decision where you can apply to a school and get accepted that day.


“I like having that direct decision, you know. Knowing I’d be accepted right there was really nice,” said Emma Bafile (12).


Friends come in handy, too, when completing your applications and making the process go by smoother.


“Kinda work with your friends, arrange to meet at certain periods, and then just proofread each other’s essays and just help out. It is more fun when it’s a group,” said Bafile.


Even though you can use your peers, there will also be professionals who are there to assist. 


“There were tons of people floating around, and really all they were there for was to answer your questions, so use them,” said Makenna Piper (12).


If you are not sure that using the people around you will be enough to conquer your nerves about filling out applications, research the information that needs to be filled out beforehand.


“Look up what colleges you want to go to in your junior year, and start looking at applications, not necessarily filling them out, but at least looking at them and seeing what kind of information is required,” said Miller.


If you still don’t have your mind set on what you want to be, there is still time to decide.You should take your time and think rationally about your future career path.


“I’ve been kinda fluctuating between psychology, english, and law,” said Piper. “I would love to go into psychology or even philosophy, but the thing is, it’s hard to get a job without having a doctorate or a masters.”


College applications can be stressful to complete, so take your time, ask questions, and follow advice.

Filed under On Campus, Sports

SEM Keeps the Ball Rolling

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Every exciting game and intense match. Every great play, shot, or run. Every impressive student athlete. All of these are important to the supporters of our school’s sports in the local community.


Sport and Entertainment Marketing is advised by Mr. Kevin Gustafson (Faculty). The creation of this class stemmed from Gustafson’s passion for sports, along with his experience of coaching for 27 years. He wants his students to learn how to promote sports, and how to promote entertainment activities.


“I thought that there would be a big interest in the sports side of it, and entertainment as well,” said Gustafson.


There was a pretty good turnout for the class, according to Gustafson, which is why the Sports and Entertainment Marketing class is split into three classes. There are two Sports and Entertainment Marketing 1 classes, and one class of Sports and Entertainment 2.


“My junior year I did recordings for games and wrote articles,” said Clay Sanders (12) but this year I am doing a show with Carlos Rauch.”


Sanders and Rauch are the anchors for Sports and Entertainment Marketing. Other students in the same class help with the show that SEM posts on their Youtube channel. This class is also in charge of all forms of social media.


“We’re more of a whole team, ” says Gustafson. “Clay and Carlos are the anchors, but we all pitch in for the rest.”


The class’ Twitter, @jbhs_sports, frequently Tweets scores, congratulations to individual players, and about plays via live Tweets and after the games. They even tweet before the games, wishing teams the best of luck, and try to get people to attend the games to cheer them on.


The first year class focuses on writing articles in The Mercersburg Journal and they recently started covering home games. Also, the class uses a program that simulates sports marketing in the real world. In the simulation, students do things like get sponsorships, set ticket prices for games, and even hire employees for your imaginary stadium.


“My favorite part about this class is always being involved in sports,” Sanders said. “I’m always learning new stuff.”


SEM is working on getting better equipment and more broadcasts in order to make what they do eye-catching to their audience and draw in more viewers. The class of Sports & Entertainment Marketing has bigger plans and improvements in its near future.


Sanders said, “We’re getting new stuff that way we are kind of taken more serious”.


Last year the students presented to the administration in order to get new equipment. New TV’s, a boom microphone, four cameras, a new projector, and two new desktop computers were all a successful outcome of the students’ presentation.


Gustafson plans to bring back broadcasts that students did last year which include play-by-play of games. These broadcasts are posted on the class’ Youtube channel.


Sanders and Gustafson both agreed that the class is a great preparation for a career for professional sports announcers, reporters, or anything sports-related.  


SEM isn’t just about sports. It’s about the group of students that work together to make sure that the community comes together and is involved as much as possible when it comes to all things sports related.

Filed under On Campus, Showcase

Young Adult Literature (YAL): Controversy in the Classroom

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Teachers across the United States are beginning to explore teaching young adult literature (YAL) texts.  These stories have a protagonist that is a young adult age or teenager who faces obstacles that many teens are going through today. Controversial texts can allow students to process and learn about hardships their peers or themselves may be facing. Suicide, teen relationships, divorce, debilitating illnesses, drugs, alcohol, and even rape are topics that are covered in these texts.


The Common Core State Standards are requiring texts that are a higher complexity and display more mature themes, or controversial scenes stated Jessica Keigan in her article “Teaching Controversial Texts.” These higher complexity texts are encouraging teachers to teach more controversial topics.


In the library Emma Bafile (12) is reading “The Selection, by Keira Cass.”

“When I teach Johnny, I ask the students to consider the perspective of the author—a man who lived through two world wars and questioned what is worth fighting for,” Keigan said. “I want my students to think about those things because someday they may be called upon to answer similar questions themselves. Growing up is a challenging thing to do—it is our job as educators to provide opportunities for students to learn ways to navigate this process.”


The James Buchanan English Department has been working to successfully teach controversial topics in books.  Ms. Kelley Reeder (Faculty) is one of the first teachers to begin exploring and teaching controversial texts in her classroom. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson was the first book she chose to teach.  By reading Speak the students could connect with the main character’s witty personality while also realizing the important topics discussed in the book.


“There’s some tough things that happen to Melinda, and she’s a ninth grade student and I teach ninth grade,” Reeder states. “But the actual book is about coming of age and and coming to high school; only a portion is about that controversy.”


After success with Speak, she began to teach other books in literature circles. She allows students to choose the book they would like to read and discuss it within their small groups. It is important to discuss some of these topics in books because they display what teens are facing today.


“I chose Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson. In the Lit circles we did activities where we pulled passages that were well-written,” Patrick Hicks (10)  stated.  “We also discussed the challenges the main character faced in his life and maybe how we faced some hardship that was similar to his.”


The English Department believes it is important to use the texts to broach topics that teens are not comfortable talking to adults about. The literature circle can allow students to discuss with other students, not just teachers, due to the age gap adults may not fully understand what today’s teens are facing.


“I think it is really important to have that open discussion with kids, about topics that are weighing on their hearts that they don’t have a safe place to talk about,” Reeder said.  “It is important for us as teachers to make them realize they can talk to their peers, they can talk to their teachers, they can talk to their parents.”

Now, not only will they open up to their peers about struggles they may be facing, but also adults. Which will allow these difficult issues be confronted respectfully.


“Ms. Reeder was there to make sure we could keep a more respectful tone towards it, where there would be some students who might joke about it or take it less seriously,” Hicks said.


Ms. Nicole Myers (Faculty) is another teacher that has begun teaching controversial texts in her classroom.


“Our world is filled with controversy, and I think our high schools and middle schools are filled with controversy,” Myers said. “Just because you want to try and avoid it in a book, doesn’t mean you will have success with avoiding it in the real world. Some of these difficult topics are better discussed in a productive environment.”


Myers has been teaching The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, to her classes. She believes it is important for students to read this book because it can give students an outlook on what is happening in the world.


“The main character faces a lot of challenges,” Myers stated. “Sometimes it is important for younger students to see difficulties that are happening in the real world.”


Since some of these subjects are very delicate, it can be worrisome to parents. Myers and Reeder send home parent letters before assigning books to their students.


“We understand that some of these topics are sensitive, and we want parents to team up with us, to be talking with their kids as we are reading the books,” Reeder said. “We want them to research the books we are thinking of using and let us know if they have concerns so we can choose the book that fits for EACH student and personalize our classes more, while working with the parents to provide open lines of communication.”


Reading “Looking for Alaska”, by John Green, Max McCullough (9) enjoys reading in the library.

By doing this it allows the parents to be involved and understand what their children are reading. The English Department also allows parents to explore other books that may be taught in the future that the department is considering.


When choosing what books to have their students read, Reeder and Myers consider a lot of factors. They try to choose texts where the student reading the book can relate to and learn from. Websites like Common Sense Media, and Goodreads allow teachers, parents, and students to research these books and find what the main themes of the book are and the rating to choose what will be best for the students to read. Books found on this website are rated on the topics within, for instance some may be PG while others will be more PG 13 or even R.


“In the book, Speak, Melinda is the epitome of a ninth grade student with her sarcasm, the way she feels about school,” Reeder said. “She gives a voice to the teenager. As soon as I read it I was like, these are my kids.”


Not only is the English Department choosing books students can relate to and learn from, but also what they will enjoy. When researching the novels they try to find common interests for the students.


“These stories are the stories that they like. My job as a teacher is to make them want to read for the rest of their lives.”

— Kelley Reeder


Controversial texts are a new way of running classes not just teaching about the texts, but tough life issues students may be facing. The high school English Department will continue their efforts in teaching young adult literature in their classrooms, and finding new strategies to teach them.

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Foreign Exchange(d) Club

Why the Gap Year for the Club Came to be

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Everything has been the same in the James Buchanan district. Everything, except the disappearance of an organization and the new faces we receive every year.


The James Buchanan Foreign Exchange Club has been a way for the students and staff to experience diverse cultures and people from around the world. Each year, the school typically receives a few exchange students who come from all over the globe to attend school and live in the small town of Mercersburg.


But when students walked in the doors this semester, they noticed the absence of these faces.


“The Foreign Exchange Club is not going to be active this year due to the lack of exchange students in our district,” Ms. Danielle Simchick, (Faculty), the advisor to the club, originally stated.


Simchick had plans to continue the club, even without the exchange students, but that plan had fallen through.

“We initially were going to work with a former exchange student, Marianna Davidova, this year,” Simchick said.  “Marianna is an Armenian exchange student who attended James Buchanan in 2015-2016, who is now attending Wilson College for four years.”

Davidova was unable to fulfill the duties required to participate in the club, so Simchick decided it would be best to make the club inactive. This was the plan until Mid-October when the school got news that there would be a new foreign exchange student.

“His name is Fernando, and he comes from Mexico,” Sarah Hoffeditz (12), President, informed.


Hoffeditz did not want the club to take the gap year and had her own intentions for the exchange students.


“I was disappointed because I was looking forward to meeting new exchange students,” Hoffeditz states, “My plans were to show the exchange students the way of America and go on trips with them.”


She then found out the Club was reinstated around the same time other students began to.


“It was the very beginning of this week. Simchick sent out a text telling us about the new exchange student,” Hoffeditz said. “It was a nice surprise to add to my senior year.”


As the Club regains its footing, Hoffeditz recommends students should meet the foreign exchange student and be a part of the club.


“Do it. You get to meet amazing people, whether they are the exchange students or people within the club,” Hoffeditz said, “You get to be apart of their lives, and they will really cherish that. You get a friend and a new adventure by being apart of the club. “

The Club has been selling water bottles in room 117 and is making monthly deposits to raise money for Club expenses while hoping to boost their participation for the year.

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College Confusion Conquered

Struggling with your college applications?

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Calling all seniors at JB!  If you have been confused about college and the application process, then this article is for you!  Ms. Amy Violante, College Advisor, and the College Ambassador team are an outgoing bunch  willing to assist in every way possible!

College applications and essays can be very confusing at times.  Any little piece of information available to assist most high school seniors absorb right away.

“Know your deadlines, do all of the optional pieces, demonstrate interest in colleges you would like to attend, apply to a balanced list of colleges and consider using the Common App,” Violante said about her top five tips for college.

Stressing these points are very important.  Her own college application experience was enjoyable, however she feels that if she would have known everything she does now, she could have found a better financial fit for her.  A great opportunity to fill out college applications is coming up on Nov. 6.  This is a day where any senior can have some time fill out applications.  If there are any questions you can ask Violante or the College Ambassador team.

“Had I applied to or been accepted to more colleges, I may have had another great college option that would have been a better financial fit,” said Violante.

Keeping this in mind, senior Maddie Hissong, College Ambassador,  recommends that seniors to apply to many different colleges.


“It’s good to apply to five or more colleges,” Hissong says.

Having more options are always better.  Everyone needs three types of schools: reach, likely, and safety.  A reach school is the school that may accept you, but is not guaranteed.  Likely schools are the schools that you will get accepted to, but may not be the ones that are the best for your major.  A safety school is a school that will accept you and that is good for your major.  These schools are the ones that are your safety net in case there aren’t any other schools that you can get into.

Along with applying to college comes financial aid.

“The most important part of applying for college might be applying for financial aid,” Violante said.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial part of applying for college.  There are different deadlines for each school; everyone needs to fill out the FAFSA, even if it is believed none will be received.  

“Fill out your FAFSA,” Hissong said.

There are many important factors about college, some hidden some not.  Violante and the group of college ambassadors are always willing to help.

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Don’t Make Math a Task, Just Ask!

45 minutes may not be long enough to understand the quadratic formula, but some extra help can go a long way.

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If you’re one of many students looking for extra help understanding the mysteries of mathematics then all you have to do is ask the math tutors.


Every activity period in the library, any student is able to go down and receive aid in school work; all they have to do is ask one of the ten math tutors for help.  


Their goal as a program is to encourage students to ask questions.


“We want students who are struggling to realize we only got to where we are by asking questions,” said Nick Garbinski,12, one of the math tutors


The advisor and co-founder of the math tutoring program, Mr. Michael Mele, Faculty,  is also a promoter of asking questions.


“My job is to let them [the students] figure things out and ask questions when they need some guidance and clarification,” said Mele.


The math tutors hope to achieve the focus and effort that is based on Mele’s beliefs and the objective of the math tutoring program overall.


“I realized how much I enjoy being down in the library, helping others or receiving help,” said Jae-lin Carmack, 12, another tutor who volunteers his time every activity period.


For the people who partake in math tutoring, asking questions has helped the program better answer similar concerns from other students.

“I needed help significantly, and slowly but surely I’m improving,” states Colby Shingler, 10, currently taking Algebra 1. Shingler is a regular at the library and feels the tutoring program has played a major role in improving his math skills.


The math tutors have anywhere between two to five people come to the library a day with questions on homework. They hope by promoting thought-provoking questions, more students will come asking for help.



The math tutors will continue to aid others until the end of the year and start all over again once more with the new school year.


Carmack advised, “Never be afraid to ask questions because without questions you get no answers and without answers everyone’s clueless.” 

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